Friday, June 7, 2013

Getting back into summer reading mode

By S. Derrickson Moore

LAS CRUCES — Whatever happened to those great summer beach books? And the time and inclination to enjoy them?
I was pondering that when I did our annual story about summer reading clubs at Thomas Branigan Memorial Library. 
They have clubs for tots, tweens, teens and adults. And there’s still time to sign up, by the way, and qualify for prizes that range from tote bags and movie tickets to a chance to win a limousine ride. 
It was great to see readers of all ages picking out books and curling up in cozy library nooks and crannies to enjoy a good read.
And I also realized it’s been a long time since my last visit to the library. I discovered they’ve  instituted a great, user-friendly self-checkout system in the interim.
I grew nostalgic for the days — not so long ago — when I devoured at least five to ten books every week and my passion for the written word knew no bounds. I was limited only by the seam-strength of my tote bags and library check-out quotas. In my reading heyday, I got around that one by having cards for several libraries in the metropolitan areas I lived in, supplemented with finds from the great indie, new-and-used bookstores that I always considered a prerequisite for long-term residence anywhere. (In Portland, Ore., it was legendary Powell’s, which colonized an entire big-city block; here, it’s Coas.)
I subscribed to a dozen magazines and several newspapers and managed to turn out a respectable number of book reviews.
When did it all end? And why?
I can trace it to July 21, 2007, when I read the last Harry Potter book, as usual, in one sitting, so I could do a timely review and return it promptly to grandson Alex the Great, then age 10 and among the 15 million fans who bought it in the first 24 hours after its release. (He and his cousins dressed up for the midnight release party and I was delighted to discover a long-awaited book could be a highlight of the summer for a new generation.) 
My spirit was willing, but my back and peepers were weak. After the first 400 pages, my eyes longed for soothing drops and cucumber spa sessions.
These days, I do almost of my reading and research online. I give at the office and then come home to my laptop and hours of DVD programs and documentaries. Add seemingly infinite amounts of electronic tablet information and smartphone tweets, Facebook and assorted other social media shenanigans, and I’m think I’m suffering from CSF (Chronic Screen Fatigue).
My retired, still-well-read sister says her Kindle inspires her to download and read lots of classic favorites and new books, but my CSF flares up every time I prepare to take the plunge.
I find myself longing for the comforting feel and sight of retro paper pages — and sometimes, retro subject matter. I find myself longing to reread old favorites. 
Marian Elzi, Young Adult librarian at the Branigan, led me through racks of vampire and “dystopian” choices, when a blast from the past caught my eye. Trixie Belden is nowhere to be found, but there was a whole rack of Nancy Drew books, in user-friendly, small paperback form.
The cover illustration of today’s Nancy looks like a teenage Cameron Diaz, and the mystery she’s solving involves Siberia bullying and sophisticated computer skills. But her best friends are still Bess and George, still recognizable as their distinctive selves. Boyfriend Ned and dad, attorney Carson Drew, are still supportive background players to the dynamic girl-power trio. And Nancy, who first appeared in the 1930s,  is still her slightly geeky, but brainy and beautiful self. And she still fearlessly unravels life’s mysteries with hands-on , real-time, on-site sleuthing.
It was just what I needed to get me back into summer reading mode. Old school and big time. 
I’ve got a sturdy, oversize tote bag and I’m ready to stock up on beach books.  

S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at 575-541-5450. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore

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